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Pre-employment medicals

Before choosing staff you may wish to use medical tests to check they are physically and mentally able to do the job, without putting themselves or others at risk.

Pre-employment medicals are done by a doctor of your choice and paid for by you.  They should only be used to test the applicant's ability to do the job.

They are not to find out about irrelevant past medical conditions or workers' compensation claims. Applicants should not be asked to give private and sensitive information.

If you want to use pre-employment medicals, you should:

  • Give the doctor information about the work involved in the job.
  • Make sure the standard is no different from that required of existing staff.
  • Ask yourself if you could reasonably find ways to employ a person with a medical condition or disability, or if this would create an unjustifiable hardship for your business.
  • Advise applicants of the outcome and maintain strict confidentiality.
  • Document your decisions and your reasons for them.
  • Avoid assuming what people with disabilities or past medical conditions can or can't do.  

It is against the law to reject an applicant because of a disability, injury or illness that won't prevent them from doing the job safely.

It is also against the law to vary the terms or conditions of a person's employment because of a disability, injury or illness that does not interfere with their ability to do the job.

If the doctor conducting a pre-employment medical discriminates unfairly, both you and the doctor may be held responsible.

Example

Steve applied for a job as a delivery driver and was asked to do a pre-employment medical. The test revealed Steve was slightly colour blind and he did not get the job for this reason. Steve could claim that he was discriminated against against unless the employer could reasonably show that being slightly colour blind would affect his ability to perform the job safely.

Legal decision - Hurley v Electricity Commission (1994) EOC 92-624

Mr Hurley applied to work as a cleaner and labourer with the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. A pre-employment medical showed that he had high blood pressure. The doctor assumed Mr Hurley would not be fit enough to do the job without matching his level of fitness to the actual job requirements. Mr Hurley was awarded $40 000.

Legal decision - Davies v State of Victoria (2000) EOC 93-058

Mr Davies applied to join the police force but failed a colour vision test. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined that the test was not an accurate predictor of performance and ordered the application to continue. The applicant was tested in a different way.

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